Adventures In Celluloid

Film critic Dominic Corry celebrates, clarifies and justifies his love for all things film.

Dominic Corry: Should you read or watch Gone Girl?

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Should you read the book first? Or watch the film? Dominic Corry investigates his options ahead of Ben Affleck's new film, Gone Girl.
Ben Affleck in a scene from his new movie, Gone Girl.
Ben Affleck in a scene from his new movie, Gone Girl.

As I've detailed before in this space, I regretted reading Fight Club before I saw the film because I thought the adaptation told the story in a more impactful way, and the visual medium better suited the plot's secrets.

You can only discover a story for the first time once, and in this case, I wish it had been the film. Despite that experience, I still read books that are about to be films, because, well, I just can't help myself.

Watch the trailer for Gone Girl:

Video

Conventional wisdom dictates that the book is always better than the film (notable exception: Jaws), but even when that's the case, I sometimes wish I hadn't read the book because, like Fight Club, I think it may have been more fun to experience the story for the first time in filmic form.

I got thinking about these issues when I read Gillian Flynn's smash-hit thriller Gone Girl last year. I knew when I started the book that Fight Club director David Fincher was making a film from it, but the yuppies-in-peril nature of the domestic thriller storyline was too tantalising to resist.

The book is a fantastic read, and it's not hard to see why it's become a zeitgeist smash. Beyond its beautifully-executed thriller elements, Flynn offers up some very amusing and incisive commentary on gender role expectations in modern relationships.

Flynn - a former TV critic whose work in Entertainment Weekly I enjoyed for many years - writes in a very filmic style and it's very easy to picture the story playing out as a movie.

Once I started the book I could barely put it down, and I was resigned to favouring the experience of reading it over the upcoming movie. In this spirit I started doing something I'd never done before while reading a book - every time a new character was introduced, I jumped onto the film's IMDb page and looked up who was playing him or her.

I quite enjoyed doing this, and it was fun seeing how Fincher's typically impeccable casting choices correlated with how the novel evoked the respective characters. Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike are PERFECT for the leads.

Once I finished the book, I started reading all I could about the movie. It was only then that I discovered the extent of Flynn's involvement with the film, and that she'd even conceived of a new ending.

In doing this, Flynn has ensured that all the fans of her book will get something unique from watching the film, and I couldn't be happier.

I can't recall another scenario which allows the reader/viewer to so relish both forms of a story, and it's very exciting. Books have always had their endings altered for films, but it's rarely at the hands of the original author. Flynn claimed to be unphased by the polarising reaction to her original ending, but it's hard not to imagine that played into her coming up with something new for the film.

Either way, I'm happy to follow both her and Fincher wherever they wish to lead me. To address the question in the headline of this blog: you should both read AND view Gone Girl. If you haven't read the book already that is. Many people have. Get on board. It's not too late. I think it will enhance the film.

This feels like a rare occasion when we're able to enjoy a story in two different forms, without one experience harming the other.

* Do you think reading a book prevents you from enjoying the movie version? Or vice versa? Comment below!

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